It was one of those events at which you don’t think you’ll see the people again, so you talk freely or question others with abandon. Somehow, in my desire to use my time wisely and listen to other people, I ended up being questioned and talking more than I wanted to about a subject that I had no desire to talk about.
The woman who sat to my left at this “Women Over 50” group dinner still works part-time as a marriage therapist. She was disappointed that I was long divorced and, thus, unable to save my marriage with her sage advice. Nonetheless, she plowed forward, wanting to know what I did or did not do that may or may not have contributed to the failure of the marriage and the bitter divorce process itself. Fun Happy Hour!
As I talked, she seemed more interested in the conversation than me. I had no desire for this ancient rehash. There’s a point when the past disconnects and transforms into a narrative that has no relation to your current life or self. It’s history that you already learned from and have no desire to see what else can be gleaned. We last lived in the same house in 2009. Don’t I get a reprieve from all the know-betterers at some point?
Once I managed to get the conversation to her, I realized why she wanted to focus on me. Her husband died two years ago, but she had been his primary caregiver for years and she still seemed exhausted by the experience and the loss. Her sadness came through, but so did the frustration with a chain of unhelpful home aides. This then transitioned to anger and more frustration when she talked about her step-daughter with addictions and all that comes with that, including a system that put her grandchild back into an unstable situation. It seems that perhaps my divorce was the light part of the conversation for her, the place where she could be the professional, not the patient.
I next talked to a woman across from me who had been a social worker and was also still clearly identifying with her profession. When I said that I planned to move to live near my daughters, she kept saying “live your life, live your life.” This, also, turned out to be advice to self as she told me that her husband died a year ago. and her son and daughter-in-law, who had moved in with her temporarily before COVID, were still there. In fact, she left with bags of take-out for them. She also warned me about scams on dating apps. I’m not on any of those any more, but I was glad for her that she hadn’t given up yet on finding someone. Her advice to me, noted, but I don’t see how spending time with family takes away from my life.
Somehow, I managed to talk to those two before the conversation-hog across from me got to monopolizing the table. With her, I was definitely off the hook of having to answer any questions about my divorce or my future. What was interesting about her was how uninteresting she was, very boisterously. She mainly talked about a birthday party her family had for her mother back home in Colombia. There was time off from work. There were flowers. There was music and dancing. There was even her surprising her mother that she was there. (Since she didn’t need any dialogue, just our nods, I didn’t get to question the wisdom of surprising a 90-year-old woman.)
In the last few minutes when we were paying our bills, I spoke to the woman on my right. Her advice, after telling me that she can’t travel anymore because she needs knee replacement surgery, was that I should make sure to travel before it’s too late.
On the drive home, I felt surprisingly good about the event. The food was mediocre and the conversations frustrated me, but I got out of the house and my head, and met some new people. It’s not always necessary to have an insightful conversation for it to be a worthwhile one. Each of us got out of the walls we live within to connect, however lightly, with other people. There are now some new people and stories in my head.
Looking back at the evening, I’d say that it had been a few happy hours because connections are just as important as relationships.